I currently have 3 dealership Web 2.0 / UGC digital marketing projects in progress... At this point in time, it is fairly easy to swap various User Generated Content (UGC) and interaction modules, gadgets, widgets, applets, applications, etc. in and out of a Web 2.0 site using a variety of platforms... However... What I have come to realize from a fairly short time into the project is that UGC/Web 2.0 engagement tools and features are only 25% of the formula for success that will be required... What hasn't changed about using the Internet for automotive marketing and sales via client/consumer/shopper/customer interaction during the past 15 years is that ALL digital marketing plans require a balanced approach and consistent tactical execution in 4 distinct key areas... And, site content and features are only 1 of those 4. The digital marketing strategy I am referring to has been understood for so long, it is almost a cliche, but these requirements are still as true today as they were when dealers first started launching web sites in the mid 90's. All automotive digital marketing strategies require a plan that successfully deploys tactical execution in a manner that produces adequate results in the 4 following areas:
1. TRAFFIC to the site -
In the case of Web 2.0 this may require a data collection and mining approach similar to CRM implementations, email marketing or monthly eNewsletters. My own personal spice in this concoction would be to include employees, suppliers, financial services providers and OEM associates of the dealership.
2. INTERACTIVE content and features -
This is what most digital marketing professionals spend far too much time dealing with... I am not going to repeat what we all know, all you have to do is go into the admin features section of a premium Ning site, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube or any other Web 2.0 / UGC success story and you can see what is rapidly becoming the "must haves", along with the many other bells and whistles that are optional and can be combined to help create the flavor and texture of a dealer's Web 2.0 site. The key to this part of the recipe for success will be to identify the widgets that successfully engage the site's participating members, while clearing the way of clutter that creates unnecessary confusion... Something that ADM is often criticized for.
3. PROCESSES that respond to engagement output
created by a successful execution of #1 and #2 above. This means PEOPLE who will be allocated the time, responsibility tools and training to administer the site, moderate user generated conent when necessary, keep the Russian Internet Brides from overrunning the site, respond to questions, jumpstart discussions and generally manage the noise created by a successful Web 2.0 deployment... That's why companies like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Ning and others have THOUSANDS of employees... #3 is really what Elvis would describe as TCB.
4. ONLINE TO OFFLINE TRANSITION -
This is what we used to refer to as "Sales" or "Showroom" processes in the old TIPS model... Ultimately the goal is to sell cars, parts, accessories and service business... So, there will need to be a balanced approach to managing sales and business opportunities without driving away the customers willing to engage who own your dealership's products and won't be ready to buy for another year. Ultimately, I see dealership communities as the most successful iteration of Web 2.0 deployment in automotive retail. When done really well, it is easy to conceive a strategy that results in what CRM software has promised for so long, but not really delivered to the level of the early expectations. I see UGS / Web 2.0 as an extension of a sound CRM strategy to engage both prospective and existing dealership customers who are way up at the top of the old marketing and sales funnel, in a way that increases the percentage of them retained as customers by the dealership at the bottom of the funnel, whether that be 3 months, 6 months, a year or more later.
You can take a look at the 3 dealership Web 2.0 / UGC projects I mentioned at the beginning of the post by visiting the following "Dealership Communities":
1. Sanderson Ford Lincoln Mercury Community serving Ford owners, Sanderson employees, Suppliers and OEM associates - www.SandersonCommunity.com
2. Ford of Kirkland Online Community - www.Ford-Community.com
3. San Tan Ford Online Community - www.San-Tan-Ford.com
One of the nice aspects to trying to make this work for Ford and/or Lincoln Mercury is that the OEM provides dozens of data feeds in the form of RSS feeds and embeddable content. This allows Ford and LM dealers to create UGC sites that have a steady stream of photos, videos, articles, news reports and other great content that is updated daily, weekly and monthly by Ford without the dealer needing to tend to it. This translates into Ford and LM dealers having a head start over other brands in trying to unlock the secrets to success for automotive tier 3 marketing using a Web 2.0 site deployment... Thank you, Ford! Here's a few items that showcase how Ford is providing digital assets for Web 2.0 / UGC / Social Networking site creators. You can click on the header image below to open a new browser window that loads the actual Ford website that provides these very cool and useful assets:
Welcome to ford.digitalsnippets.com - an online newsroom hosting the Social Media Press Releases (SMPR) of the Ford Motor Company.
By subscribing to the RSS feeds for individual SMPRs, you will be instantly updated with the latest digital snippets related to that story. A Digital Snippet may take the form of copy, photos, video or audio that is optimized for the Internet and easily reposted on any website.
All Digital Snippets and SMPRs are subject to Creative Commons Licensing. You are free to use all of our content and multimedia files in your online news articles, blogs, enthusiast websites, and social networks. We only ask that you assign credit by linking back to the SMPR where you found the original content.
To get you started, explore the following Social Media Press Releases (SMPR):
Ford Mustang RSS icon Released 2008-07-11
Lincoln RSS icon Released 2008-04-08
Ford Trucks RSS icon Released 2008-01-13
Ford Flex RSS icon Released 2008-03-19
Ford Focus RSS icon Released 2007-10-10
Ford Fiesta RSS icon Released 2008-01-13
Ford Technology RSS icon Released 2008-05-05
Ford and the Environment RSS icon Released 2008-01-05
Ford Safety RSS icon Released 2008-11-07
The Ford Plan RSS icon Released 2008-12-13
2008 Year in Review RSS icon Released 2008-11-25
Ford Quality RSS icon Released 2008-02-28
Ford on TV and Film RSS icon Released 2007-11-9